The term ‘Third Hand Smoke’ has been getting a lot of attention recently in publications like Scientific American and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Everyone who’s got any sort of media access has heard of ‘Second Hand Smoke’ by now; that is, cigarette smoke breathed in by people other than the person smoking the cigarette (worst effected being children and babies) that is doing these ‘inadvertently smoking’ individuals damage. But what you really want to know is, what could this ‘Third Hand Smoke’ be, and how does it affect me and my family?
What is Third Hand Smoke?
Third Hand Smoke is a term given to cigarette smoke residue, laid down over time, that can harm non-smokers that live or spend time in the area that was, or is continuing to be, smoked in. Anyone who isn’t a smoker can smell when a smoker has been nearby, even if they weren’t smoking. Stepping into an enclosed space with a smoker, like a lift, can alert a non-smoker to their destructive habit, even if they are not partaking at the time. Similarly, if a non-smoker steps into a smoker’s house, they can tell immediately that the space has seen heavy smoking activity. What they can smell is the residue of what could be years of tar deposition within that space. On the walls, furnishings, and especially the carpets, every surface is coated in Third Hand Smoke.
There is some complex chemistry involved, but besides all the tar chemicals that are damaging your lungs every time you light up, some of the nicotine layered wherever smoking has taken place interacts with gasses given off by your gas appliances (heaters and ovens), or your car exhaust (if you’ve smoked as you drive), to create even more damaging carcinogens (cancer causing compounds). So you can see that Third Hand Smoke can pose a real threat, but those worst affected are sadly infants and children.
Third Hand Smoke and Infants
Think about it. Where do infants and young children spend most of their time? On the floor. Infants + carpets + years of smoking = bad news. Infants and small children, due to their proximity to the floor and other surfaces, and their faster breathing, take in about twenty times (20x!!!) more of the particles containing Third Hand Smoking toxins than adults do. Add to this the infant brain’s susceptibility to damage from very low level toxins, and you are likely to be doing your young children permanent damage. As Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at the Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, says,
“…Studies in rats suggest that tobacco toxin exposure is the leading cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). We think it is [caused by] respiratory suppression…”
So you can see why quitting smoking, and detoxifying not only your lungs, but your entire living spaces, is vitally important for the health of not only yourself, but your family and friends. Some sources recommend replacement of clothing, furniture, and even internal wall materials to remove all traces of these dangerous carcinogens, however there are several, less expensive actions you can take today to reduce this risk.
How to Get Rid of Third Hand Smoke
- Dry clean/industrial clean all your clothes, linens and towels. This can get a bit expensive but it’s cheaper than replacing them all. If they still smell smoky (to a non-smoker, wash again or consider slow replacement).
- Wash down all the walls with sugar soap. This will help, but it may take several goes to get most of the Third Hand Smoke residue off them.
- Have all your fabric covered furniture steam cleaned. If it still smells smoky (to an non-smoker) it might be time to start replacing items.
- Wipe down all wooden and hard furniture with appropriate cleaning solutions. ANY surface can collect Third Hand Smoke.
- Steam clean ALL carpets and drapes. Have all hard floors professionally cleaned. Carpets are a massive problem. Again if they still smell even vaguely smoky it might be worth considering replacement when cleaning third hand smoke
Obviously, get rid of all those butts, ashtrays and all smoking gear. Needless to say, you want to quit, stay smoking-free, and detox your lungs to make the process complete.
If this has got you worried about the damage your smoking habit may be doing to yourself and your family. Or perhaps you have been a smoker once and now realize just how harmful this habit is and continues to be, (tar and toxins take over a decade to clear out of your lungs!) click below to visit out main page and see what a lung detox can do for you.
Next time, we’ll talk about the phenomenon of ‘situational smoking’ and how your brain gets your ready to smoke in locations where you’ve regularly smoked previously.
Stay well, stay quit, and get lung-toxin free!